King Of The Retrievers
by Wayne Poholke
We are blessed with the king of the retriever breeds, with the Labrador Retriever consistently dominating championship retrieving trials throughout Australia.
In this breed we have not diverged too far from the necessary requirements of a working retriever to be out of touch with the function of the breed according to the Labrador Retriever breed standard.
Show bred dogs carry the same genetic material as all Labradors, and in many cases all the dog needs is the opportunity to express its underlying instincts with the encouragement of an experienced gun dog trainer/handler. The key to trying these dogs is the very early start in directing the puppy's natural tendencies. Firstly, of course, you must have the skill to recognize what the pup is doing. Herein lies the basic problem.
Breeders must never lose sight of the real purpose of the Labrador Retriever. There is a real need for breeders to familiarize themselves with how the a working retriever functions - after all, the breed standard was written to describe the unique qualities of this special retriever as a gun dog. The Labrador Retriever's ability to complete very difficult and complex retrieves could only be described as awesome.
The Labrador Retriever is a useful shooting companion, a top trial dog and a quality show dog. Ideally, one dog should be able to do all these things. The saddest fact for breeders today is the rift between the trial dog - bred for speed, with lack of substance and bone and no regard for breed type, and the show dog - bred to be exaggerated to the point of grossness, not as called for by the standard, which is all about moderation.
The ultimate aim is to produce the dual purpose dog , that is, the dog who has the breed type and quality to win well in the show ring, and the athletic ability to compete at top level in retrieving and field trials. Unfortunately many judges in the conformation ring find a Labrador in hard working condition very difficult to judge alongside many of the overweight and poorly exercised dogs in the ring.
The Labrador Retriever is a beautifully balanced, steady worker. They are attentive and work for their handler - not for themselves. The breed is very tractable and biddable and can be trained to a high standard of cooperation with the handler. The temperament must be sound. This degree of training is the only true test of a dog's temperament. Performance at open and championship level is dictated by the dog's ability to work under pressure. Temperament is paramount. Most dogs never undergo a true test of their temperament as their training goes no further than basic obedience.
The Labrador Retriever is equally at home working all types of game. Their love of the water makes them an ideal duck hunter's companion. The steady method and inherent game sense combined with a wonderful nose allow them to work rabbit and quail.
Retrieving trials are the ideal testing ground for the Labrador Retriever, and a look at the results from championships over many years will show that they dominate the sport.
The qualities that make a good working Labrador are the same that endear them to families. Few people realize that the reason they are sought as the ideal companion for the family are their communication skill and willingness to please. These are the same qualities that are prized in the working dog.
To fulfill their role as worker, the Labrador must have stamina, style, eagerness and action plus a natural ability to mark. They must have a tender mouth to deliver to hand and the command to handle various terrain and conditions.
There is a great deal of enjoyment to be had seeing your best friend achieve excellence in their work, and immense satisfaction to be shared with your working Labrador Retriever.